Monday, May 31, 2004

WWE RAW Review: 05/31/04

This week's episode opened with a Memorial Day tribute that was more eerie than patriotic. From Vince's gruff, reverb-filled, "voice of god" overdub to the lengthy, bizarre playing of taps to close it out, this was just odd from start to finish. I wonder how the live crowd there in Canada liked all the pro-American propaganda they threw into this week's show? And why is the name World Wrestling Entertainment if 95% of their shows are booked in the United States and they loudly celebrate all of the Amercan-exclusive holidays? Jeez, the NHL and NBA have more of a claim to being Worldwide sports, and they're both still quote-unquote national leagues.

I loved the choice to kick off the show with the tag team title match, expecially considering the instant support La Resistance enjoyed from their "home crowd." When did Rob Conway cease to be an American again? Regardless, the challengers were giving it their all even if the quality wasn't really up to the standards I'd hope for in a title match. Conway's right there, ready to bust out as a star under his own power, but Grenier still has a ways to go before he's up to snuff. I won't complain about the title change, because the belts weren't getting defended anyway and I'm glad to see them back on a permanent team. This was a lot of fun to watch with the wild crowd and I loved the spot where Conway fought the pain of the crossface just long enough for his partner to get into the ring. It showed that their experience together gave them an advantage over the champions, since Conway would've most certainly tapped out if he didn't know Grenier would be making the save within moments. This was a great way to hook the crowd right off the bat, even if it wasn't really a great match... probably the worst Benoit's been involved with since he came to RAW.

I could've sworn Eric Bischoff was alluding to a Eugene vs. Regal later in the night, but the actual plan turned out much better than that. I was really digging Bischoff's work last night as a heel with a heart, and judging from the forums and my fellow RRC members, I wasn't alone. Eric can play this role SO well when they allow him to, and these little segments with Eugene were perfect examples. He's not just playing a heel, he's playing a believable character with individual perks, hangups and ticks. I was POSITIVE they were going to pull the standard WWE "smarmy heel hugs innocent face, camera pans to reveal heel is grinning mischievously" trick when he embraced Eugene, but by revealing that Eric was serious in his concerns they threw a curveball at the viewing audience. Eric's an asshole, no doubt about it... he's doing this in part to look big in front of his buddies, but he also seems to be genuinely worried about Eugene. His conscience is visibly giving him one hell of a hard time about it. Between that and William Regal's portrayal of silent, helpless rage about what was going on, this was some of the finest character development and acting I've ever seen in WWE. VERY well done.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure about the way they're jerking Kane's status around in front of the cameras and crowds. He's been playing stark blacks and whites over the last month; one moment he's the heel, stalking Lita and choking out Matt Hardy... the next he's the face, opposing Evolution and eventually overcoming the odds to win the battle royal and a shot at the World Title. One moment he's a heel, storming to the ring to beat down on Eugene, the next he's a face... actually giving Eugene a hug and appearing to stand up for him. And then you blink your eyes and he's a heel again, turning around and obliterating Dinsmore with a clothesline. Now, I'll agree that feigning a face turn only to return the character to his / her heelish tendencies is a great way to add some heat to a lagging character... but overdoing it like they have been with Kane recently only serves to kill the crowd's interest in the character altogether. Kane doesn't seem like he's on the right level to be competing for the World Title right now, and his shot at the belt is almost a week away.

Jazz and Victoria put on the best Women's match we've seen since WrestleMania, although that's admittedly not saying much. Jazz is an outstanding part of the women's division when she's motivated and healthy, and last night was all the reminder I needed. She completely took Victoria apart last night, and only dropped the match due to a lucky roll-up. Once again, I'm loving the competition in the women's division right now, and just about any active competitor is a serious threat to the title. I still burst out laughing when Victoria strolls out and explodes into her little Backstreet Girl routine, but I'm sure it'll pass. Then I'll be more annoyed than entertained.

Benjamin and Orton didn't click at all last night. I'm not really worried about their Bad Blood match, for the reasons that Brett detailed earlier, but this was definitely food for thought. One thing I don't understand; if winning the match meant a guaranteed Intercontinental Title shot at Bad Blood, why did Benjamin sprint up the entryway to stop Orton from getting counted out? Why did Orton try to walk away from the match in the first place? Reminds me of the time Dean Malenko instinctively slid out to the floor for a break during a "first man to touch the floor loses" match and had to subsequently accept the loss. It's funny how different the paths are that these two have taken to get where they are today. Randy initially struggled in the ring, but found a killer angle / character, embraced it and eventually the ringwork caught up to him. Shelton is currently kicking all sorts of ass in the ring, but is missing that one great storyline, phrase or character to really get him over the top and into the fans' imaginations. Despite all of his recent high profile wins, he doesn't seem ready for the Intercontinental Title... maybe a lengthy chase will get him to the point where he is.

I had no beef with Triple H's promo last night. It was brief, simple, to the point and understandable. He let the video do the talking for him, touting his expertise in this kind of match, and left the ring before he'd run completely around in a circle on the mic. On that note, I did think it was funny that the audience wasn't all that upset to hear that Shawn wouldn't be there. What did he expect them to do?

I seriously didn't see a redeeming factor in Garrison Cade last night. He's got a bland look, he doesn't have anything special in the ring and he's going nowhere. Good to see Matt Hardy finally pick up a win, but they're both just dead weight right now.

I'm trying, but I really can't get excited about this Jericho / Tomko feud. The teased romance between Trish and Y2J has been milked dry, and the only imaginable reason for Chris to even bother with the new kid is to kill some time and maybe rub a little more salt into the Christian's wound. I wasn't sold on the ferocity of Tyson's assault this week, and I don't believe Jericho's heart is in this side-feud.

Finally, the main event was pretty much forgettable. Seriously, they've covered all the bases with Eugene in the ring now, from the airplane spin to the bridged pinning combination to the "hulk up." All that's left is for him to really get his ass handed to him, and they almost gave away that one last night. I can't really remember much of this match aside from the finish and the aftermath. It didn't surprise me, it didn't excite me, and it barely kept me awake. Neither of these guys are at the point where they should be main eventing RAWs right now, and Kane's on his way to a Title shot. I dug the post-match stuff, with Benoit trying desperately to overpower the behemoth and give him a taste of the crossface, but the note they chose to end the show on felt really hokey and stupid. They could kick some ass next weekend with an outstanding David vs. Goliath-style match, like they did with Benoit vs. the Big Show several years ago on RAW, but they've got to have a believable Goliath before that scenario could ever work. Kane beating up on Eugene and temporarily aligning with the Coach isn't getting him there.

As I'm sure you've noticed, my recap was a bit abbreviated this week. Heh, instead of fifteen thousand words I wrote fifteen hundred, right? I was just lukewarm to the great majority of this show. There were a couple things that really stood out, (Bischoff and Regal's performances, the decision to put the tag belts back onto a real tag team) but on the large I found this week's program to be much more stale than in previous weeks. I didn't have any meat to really sink my teeth into, just a bunch of garnish and a couple very nice side dishes. The show's still above average, and nothing was remarkably bad, but they need to add a touch of excitement and suspense to this recipe.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.7

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